The stabilization of conflict-affected areas often connotes “military action.” But it shouldn’t, development experts say. The global aid community should play a larger role in shaping international engagement in places from Iraq to Syria and beyond.
U.S. President Barack Obama recently announced a strategy to counter the Islamic State group with plans that depend on new military units in Iraq and a yet-to-be developed Syrian opposition force. But countering the group will need to be accompanied by broader, lasting change in Iraq and Syria, which means better governance, stronger civil society and more political inclusivity — and elevating these goals over narrower national interests.
This is where development groups can play a role, according to Michael Stanisich, who leads International Relief & Development’s stability and governance practice. Stabilization does not have to be entwined with military involvement, but it can stand alone as an effort to understand and address grievances at a very local level.
Those working at a policy level and those implementing aid projects might define instability differently. But people living in developing countries tend to define stability similarly, Stanisich suggested, citing questions such as: Am I safe and secure? Do I have the ability to grow? Are my children going to have the opportunity to achieve something?